Brad Keselowski fired the first shot in the battle for the 2012 Sprint Cup Title, with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway. He took the lead on Jimmie Johnson late and led for the final 26 laps. Johnson was angry over the way the Blue Duce got in front, but after NASCAR checked the tape it was decided that Keselowski didn’t cross the pit road restraining line too early.
2012 NASCAR Chase Standings after Race 1 of 10
|1. Brad Keselowski||2,056||Can he carry momentum over from his win in Chicago like Tony Stewart did last year? He has an average finish of 16.2 at NHMS, but he has thrived on the flat tracks lately.|
|2. Jimmie Johnson||2,053 (-3)||The 5-time champ is dangerous on any track and will be a favorite here where he has a 9.9 average finish.|
|3. Tony Stewart||2,048 (-8)||Smoke won this race last year and can win again. He has 3 top 2 finishes in his last 3 Loudon races.|
|4. Denny Hamlin||2,041 (-15)||At 8.5, Hamlin has the best average finish at Loudon in the Chase. He will recover from his fuel snafu in Chicago and post a strong finish in Loudon.|
|5. Kasey Kahne||2,041 (-15)||Kahne won the first NHMS of the season and will be among the leaders this weekend. He has a chance to move up the board.|
|6. Clint Bowyer||2,041 (-15)||Bowyer has a win in Loudon during the Chase and finished 3rd earlier this year so he is a threat.|
|7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.||2,039 (-17)||Jr. needs to get some wins if he is going to have a shot, but Loudon will not be one of them.|
|8. Greg Biffle||2,037 (-19)||Biffle has had some success on flat tracks this year, so a good finish would be no surprise, but the Roush cars don’t tend to perform well at NHMS.|
|9. Martin Truex Jr.||2,035 (-21)||I don’t know why, but I like Truex this weekend to post a strong finish.|
|10. Kevin Harvick||2,032 (-24)||Harvick’s lack of wins will keep him at the bottom of the Chase standings.|
|11. Matt Kenseth||2,030 (-26)||Kenseth is not going to give us any excitement in the Chase at all.|
|12. Jeff Gordon||2,009 (-47)||Outside of JJ and Hamlin, Gordon has the best career average at NHMS with a 10.7. He needs to get some wins early to get himself back in it.|
Loudon will be a great race to watch because the top drivers always run well there. In the July race, 12 of the top 13 finishers were Chase drivers (Newman 10th). Look for there to be a lot of lead changes between the contenders and I would expect more cautions than last time (3). The usual suspects will run well here, but Kyle Busch has a chance to win one for the Non-Chasers. When it’s over I think this race will come down to Denny Hamlin’s pit crew and I think that they will get him a win this weekend.